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Medical Assistant Training

In most states, there are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant. Most have at least a high school diploma. Many assistants learn through on-the-job training.

Medical assistants typically have a high school diploma or equivalent. There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant in most states. However, some medical assistants graduate from formal education programs, and employers may prefer such training. Programs are available from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, or universities and take about 1 year to complete. These programs usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community and junior colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate’s degree. All programs have classroom and laboratory portions that include lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.

Some states may require assistants to graduate from an accredited program or pass an exam or both to do advanced tasks, such as taking x rays and giving injections.

Through on-the-job training, a physician or another medical assistant in the office may teach the new assistant medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other tasks that help keep the office running smoothly. An assistant also learns how to code both paper and electronic health records and how to record patient information. It can take several months for an assistant to complete training, depending on the facility.

Medical assistants are not required to be certified. However, employers prefer to hire certified assistants.

Several organizations offer certification. Some require the assistant to pass an exam, and others require graduation from an accredited program. In most cases, an applicant must be at least 18 years old before applying for certification.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits four certifications for medical assistants:

To be eligible for the CMA Certification Examination, an assistant must have completed a postsecondary medical assisting program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and passed the certification exam. For the other three certifications, no formal education is required to take the certification exam.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition




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